The second reading this coming Sunday from Hebrews 12 is depicted in the reredos mosaic at St. Charles Center, the former major seminary, in Carthagena, OH, in a very grand and modernist manner. It is actually as art surviving the test of time and cultural changes and remains a compelling piece of beauty. The apocalyptic vision of the fullness of the reign of God is heightened emotionally by the rhetoric of the passage, which is extremely difficult for lectors to negotiate. The Greek long sentence with their climactic buildup and thrust do not fit English language patters. It’s the “you have not approached . . .” with the rhetorical turn of “No, you have approached . . .” The contrast of the first “not” with the second “no” is very effective, if only read in the right tones and turns of voice.

Each component culminates in a voice: first a voice that awes and frightens, and second the voice of Jesus’ blood crying out from the earth like Abel’s, “that speaks more eloquently”. It is a very fine passage in Hebrews. It is the sprinkled blood of Exodus 24, creating the new covenant. The congregation in the first have of the structure is filled with “tremendous”, and the gathering in the second part is filled with “fascinosum.” The contrasts of the two covenants is very distinct.

There are those of us who need to think of God in the former terms, the God of wrath about to destroy them in their sinfulness. And there are those of us looking forward to our final encounter and vision of God with anticipation of happiness and joy. This is not just verbal uplift, but an invitation away from Jansenism toward the Church on earth that God wants to create among us by our participation in the covenant of the new blood.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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